Mike Baker: Sledding and E-Mail

It is surprising how much speed you can generate with an icy slope, two dollars worth of plastic sled and about 165 pounds of stupid. That’s the thought that popped into my head as I lay on my back at the bottom of the hill the other day slowly doing a damage assessment.

About one minute earlier, while standing at the top of the slope preparing for my test flight, my wife called from the bottom of the slope to say “… hey, don’t do anything stupid.” I think she may have actually finished the sentence with the term “dumbass," but I can't be sure.

The sun was just about to set, the snow was hardpacked and icy, all the other sledders had gone home and I had some AC/DC on the iPod. It was the perfect storm for stupid activity. In fact, in all my years of engaging in moronic displays, never before had I stood staring at such an absolutely pure moment of idiotic anticipation.

Halfway down the slope, fully reclined on my blazing plastic toboggan, christened Butt Rocket, I lost sight of the line I had picked out from the top of the hill. I shot off course, hit a makeshift icy ramp that some pre-teen tool had constructed earlier in the day and returned to earth with the velocity of a defunct space satellite busting through the atmosphere. I bounced three or four times before coming to a stop. Butt Rocket continued its descent, and it was never found. Evidence indicates it burned up upon reentry.

Sledding, I should point out, is best done by toddlers during sunny days on hills of freshly fallen snow. Stupid middle aged men on crappy plastic sleds trying to set new speed records on untested ice floes get what they deserve. In my case, I got torn muscles in my ribcage, internal bruising and a couple of cracked ribs.

Later that evening, while sitting in front of the fire with a stack of newspapers and a hot toddy, I had a chance to review all the email traffic that was generated by the PWB column last week titled Terrorists and Morality.

The question referred to in the column, “Is it morally OK to be happy that a terrorist with the lives of many innocent persons on his hands is dead?” resulted in an amazing response from readers across the country and around the globe, including e-mail from Europe, the Middle East and Latin America.

First, to all who offered to buy me a bourbon the next time I’m passing through your hometown, please be advised I never turn down an offer of hospitality. I’ve asked the PWB office manager to organize an early summer cross-country trip with stops in any town where a reader has offered up a chat and a free drink.

Disguised as a fact-finding journey, we’ll get some sponsors to keep the RV gassed and stocked and then provide daily reports as we make our way east to west.

We’ll stop to meet readers, drink their booze and see what we can learn along the way. I like to think of it as a search for common sense.

In case you’re wondering, I will not be taking any lobbyist dollars to help finance this trip. We’ll announce plans for the PWB’s 2008 Pre-election 'What a Load of Crap Tour of America' just as soon as my office manager gets motivated.

Back to the mailbag…

I’m very pleased to report that we get readers from all across the political and philosophical spectrum. While many, OK, while the overwhelming majority of you said you have no moral qualms with feeling some level of satisfaction over the death of a terrorist such as Imad Mugniyeh, there were readers who took exception.

I much appreciated the fact that Father Jonathan Morris, a fellow FOX News contributor, friend and all around very intelligent and thoughtful dude of the cloth, wrote a column the other day in response to the PWB’s rant about terrorists and morality.

His writing was very eloquent, reasoned and compelling… although my guess is he gets assistance with all that from a higher authority.

I recommend you check out his column on a regular basis. And no, he is not putting in a good word for me in exchange for me shilling for his writing.

Although I wouldn’t say no. It’s B-A-K-E-R if He asks. I guess He’d already know that.

I’m veering off course.

First up out of the mailbag, a commissioned Army officer currently serving in Iraq writes:

I find your implication that one who disagrees with your opinions is a liberal Democrat to be disgraceful and very inaccurate.

OK, quick editorial comment…

I never said that anyone who disagrees with my opinions is a liberal Democrat, and if you took that as my implied argument then someone’s a bit sensitive. And frankly, I don’t give a crap if someone disagrees with my opinions, regardless of their political leanings. You think what you want, I’ll think what I want — just don’t get up in my kitchen with a load of self righteous drivel, whether on the left or the right.

Now back to our officer:

I support President Bush, value God, my family and my country… suffice it to say I’m a conservative Republican, but I am an American first. I do not support torture, even for terror suspects and in my opinion, waterboarding is torture. As a member of the Army, I put myself in the position of a prisoner of war. If I were captured by the enemy, what would I find justifiable action by them against me? Waterboarding does not make the cut. Now, don’t use the poor argument that if I were captured, the enemy would do far worse to me. That circular justification is not a valid argument. I know the current enemy would likely torture me and culminate by cutting off my head. That is precisely why they are the enemy, they do not follow laws. We on the other hand are the good guys, which means we do follow the law.

OK, well said.

Glad you pointed out the cutting off the head thing. See, we don’t do that, which does make us the good guys. We waterboarded less than a handful of the highest value detainees at a time when waterboarding was approved by the government. I believe that means we weren’t breaking the law, but we could spend all day arguing that one.

This same well spoken and principled individual also took the time to address the issue of telecom intercepts and the ongoing goat rope over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act:

The issue of wiretapping phone calls is another where this conservative Republican disagrees with you. I fully support wiretapping when it is done properly. If the government wants to listen to the private conversation of an American citizen, it must first demonstrate probably cause. The only way to do this is to have a judge issue a warrant. This should be done in a secret court, but we have the right to know the government is going through the process. Obviously there are risks. There is the chance the extra time it takes to obtain a warrant would cause us to miss critical information that could save American lives. There is the chance the court would not grant the request for a warrant due to insufficient evidence and again, we could miss that critical information.

These are the risks we must take to preserve those rights that so many have died to protect. You are entitled to your opinion but your implication that only liberal Democrats are against these policies is inaccurate and without defense.

I’ll say it again, my intention was not to imply that certain views or opinions are held by only one party or group on the political spectrum. I applaud the fact that this particular reader, as a self described staunch Republican, can hold the same views as Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid when it comes to terrorism or national security. That’s what makes this country great.

Moving on.

Tom from parts unknown writes:

I am in no doubt that you will ignore every word I write in this e-mail, but I guess it’s worth sending it on the off chance it might be a slow day at Fox.

How presumptuous is Tom?

He continues:

Every country has individuals within it and in its past who have committed “inhuman” acts. I assume there is some kind of timescale on reclaiming the right to humanity which is removed when heinous acts of barbarism are committed? I’d also like to ask if you believe that every terrorist on the face of the planet can be killed? It just seems a bit presumptuous that while innocent people live in fear and get caught up in atrocities every day, that you’re celebrating death in your office and then writing an article justifying it. I’m no apologist, I just believe in human life, even if the lives of those who don’t believe in mine. I dare say if he weren’t a Muslim, Osama would have been sipping bourbon on 9/11, congratulating himself and justifying slaughter for the defence of his supposed holy war.

Come now Tom, don’t sell yourself short. You’re quite the apologist. And if I didn’t know better, you’ve managed to compare my having a drink to toast the passing of the terrorist Imad Mughniyeh with Bin Laden’s 9/11 atrocities. I have got to include you on the summertime, 'What a Load of Crap' tour.

John from Denver gets in on the act:

I don’t know if there’s any point in responding to your tales of bloodlust, as you are clearly over the hedge.

Editorial note: John from Denver may mean that I’m over the edge, but given my bloodlust I can’t honestly tell. Back to John:

Maybe if I had chosen your line of work I would see things like you do. I’m glad I didn’t. What you continue to fail to grasp, or at least acknowledge, when you say that when Clinton or Obama becomes President we will still have to deal with terrorists, is that we know this. Our point, if I may speak for the liberal readership, is not that we don’t think it’s a problem, or that we like the terrorists, or that we think that people that murder the innocent have the same right to life as the rest of us; rather that we believe that if we all subscribe to your views then we will never see a day when we wake up to that terror-free reality. Because every person that we torture, that we disappear, whose children we kill in a well intentioned bombing raid, inevitably comes back to us as more terrorists to torture, disappear and bomb. I will certainly shed no tears for this terrorist, but I won’t rejoice in his death either. Exactly what do you think it accomplishes?

Damn. I simply said I was happy Mughniyeh got blown up and didn’t feel bad about being happy about it. I don’t necessarily think it accomplishes anything. Removing another terrorist, now that would accomplish something. Just being happy about it probably doesn’t do all that much. I’m a bottom line kind of guy.

If I read John’s well written email correctly, we should not be taking an aggressive stance against those who would really like to kill us. I don’t want to overthink this, but that could be considered a non-winning strategy. However, depending on the results of the November election, we may well have the opportunity to give the passive strategy a chance. Perhaps it will work. And then we can spend the rest of our days chasing unicorns and spreading pixie dust. What a load of crap.

I’d like to finish up the mailbag stroll with an e-mail received from David Jacobsen. David was walking near the American University of Beirut Medical Center back in May of 1985 when he was kidnapped by Mughniyeh’s Hezbollah terrorists. He was held hostage for 17 months before being released:

During my stay in Islamic Jihad’s resort for American hostages in Beirut I met Mughniyeh. Needless to say, I hated him for what was done to me, and also for what was done to Bill Buckley. I was in the room with Buckley the night he died. When asked by Bob Simon of CBS what I would do if I met Mughniyeh again my response was immediate… “I would disembowel him with my bare hands.” I was happy to hear of his death but disappointed for two reasons. The first was that somebody got him before I did, and the second was that the media took little notice of the death of the second worst terrorist of Islam’s war against us. Unfortunately the public and the media has forgotten all of Mughniyeh’s evil actions.”

Enough said.

As always, send us your thoughts and comments. We may not get a chance to respond, but we read every e-mail. Write to peoplesweeklybrief@hotmail.com

Till next week, stay safe.

Respond to the Writer.

Mike Baker served for more than 15 years as a covert field operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, specializing in counterterrorism, counternarcotics and counterinsurgency operations around the globe. Since leaving government service, he has been a principal in building and running several companies in the private intelligence, security and risk management sector, including most recently Prescience LLC, a global intelligence and strategy firm. He appears frequently in the media as an expert on such issues. Baker is also a partner in Classified Trash, a film and television production company. Baker serves as a script consultant and technical adviser within the entertainment industry, lending his expertise to such programs as the BBC's popular spy series "Spooks" as well as major motion pictures. In addition, Baker is a writer for a BBC drama to begin production in July 2007.

Mike Baker is the Co-Founder of Diligence LLC, a leading global intelligence, security and risk management firm. Prior to starting Diligence, Mike spent over a decade and half with the CIA as a covert field operations officer. He is a regular contributor in the national and international media on intelligence, security, counterterrorism and political issues. He appears regularly on Fox News, as well as other major media outlets.